For me, it is wonderful to be driving in the U.S. once again. Sure, not everyone does what they are supposed to all the time, but having navigated the country with the worst record for traffic fatalities (according to the World Health Organization) it feels downright relaxing to be here!But, for Carlos, it is the opposite. Used to the assertive (the nice way to say aggressive!) style needed in Santo Domingo, in a country where laws are rarely enforced, driving here seems incredibly restrictive. Although he’s been driving since he was 16, he feels like an adolescent who’s starting to learn all over again.
Everyone wants to help, and so folks have been warning him about the need to follow the rules, especially the speed limit. So, when he saw the 35 on the sign, he took it literally. He quickly realized that no one else seemed to be going as slow as he was. He sped up, but too much.
After he had slowed back down, the speed limit changed to 45. He slowly crept back up, but once more, to exactly the posted speed.Later on, I explained that folks typically drive over the limit, but to be safe, it’s good to stay only 5 miles over. “How do I know that?” he asked. “In time, you’ll just know”, was my less than helpful response.
It made me think about people who are new to, or still young in, the faith. Those of us who have served Jesus for many years just ‘know’ things. But, for those who haven’t, things can be confusing. The very things that comfort a disciple of Christ can be uncomfortable to a newer believer. And, like Carlos, it can feel restrictive and just plain bad!Helping Carlos get used to the unwritten rules of the road is taking a lot of patience – for both of us! It is tempting to just drive, letting him sit back and allow me to be in control. So, too, with new believers. We can try to shield them from the ‘tough stuff’ of living the Gospel life and just let them stay spiritual babies.
But, in the long run, this is not healthy – in either situation! At some point, Carlos has to internalize the way to drive in the U.S. He needs to be able to head off on his own, without me giving him constant direction. What now feels unnatural needs to become second nature.As we grow in Christ, what was awkward and unnatural can become natural, too. Mentors and disciplers are important in the life of a believer, but we each need to have our own relationship with Jesus. And, part of that is trusting that maturing believers can, and will, learn.
How sad to see Christians who never move past strict adherence to the ‘letter of the law’. Instead of enjoying the freedom of living in Christ, they spend their days scared, never daring to relax in the grace of God.Yes, there are things to learn, and yes, at first, they may feel downright bad. Unlearning the ways of the ‘old’ person, and learning to live as a ‘new creation’ takes time, and patience.
But, in time, with the help of others, and most importantly, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we can begin to enjoy what at first seemed strange.
In time, I hope Carlos will enjoy driving here. That he will not feel restricted and constantly worried about how fast he is going. I hope he’ll begin to see that when people follow the rules, it is actually more freeing, not less.
And, I hope, I will remember to extend extra grace to him – and me! – as we continue learning how to live in the U.S. again. We know it will be challenging, but we also know that God will be with us each step of the way.